Archive for pearl jam

It is possible to grow up and still let the juice run down your chin.

Posted in Memoir, real life with tags , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by sethdellinger

Our culture is full of tales that suggest there is a prime way to live life; movies, music and books that implore you to chase your dreams, to leave the safe confines of your daily routine, to reach out and grab life by the whatevers, because, you know, you only live once.  It’s a moving, inspiring narrative.  The thing is, you see, in our society, typically when someone does that sort of thing, we all look at them like they’re crazy.  I can’t believe she just up and moved to New York—to be an actress!  She had a pretty good job here, too.  She’s nuts!

And so on.

This is not going to be a piece of writing where I tell you how you should be living.  For the most part, how you are living is between you and, possibly, those closest to you.  It’s got nothing to do with me.  They make so many movies etc suggesting you grab life by the armpits because those kinds of things make money.  People love to be told how they are pissing away their existence.  Why?  Because almost everyone is, in some way, convinced they actually are pissing away their existence.

It’s hard to know how to live your life, right?  By the time you get one thing figured out, one part of you fully colored in, you’ve changed in other ways, and now you’re chasing other ghosts, ironing out new parts of you, nursing new interests.  The songs tell you to chase your dream but very few of us have just one enormous dream.  Most of us are a collection of dozens of itsy bitsy dreams.  I don’t suggest driving your car off a cliff over an itsy bitsy dream.

All I’m personally concerned with is being passionate, living with vigor.  I keep changing, evolving; it’s like I’m in the center of an orchard that is spinning around me and I’m leaping at fruit as they fly past.  Even as I near my fortieth year, I find my changes accelerating: I would be unrecognizable even to my thirty-year-old self.  With so much swirling into and out of my crosshairs, it’s impossible to laser-focus on something.  What I need is passion for everything.  The racing heart, smelling the book, walking outside in the cold to take the photograph, the peach juice running down your chin, holding Her as tight as I can.  I don’t need to move to New York to be an actress to squeeze the juice out—but maybe you do, so maybe you should.

And maybe you’re OK with rote routine, eating your food and drinking your water just to stay alive as long as possible.  That’s fine, too.  Like I said, this isn’t a piece of writing to tell you how to live your life.  That’s got nothing to do with me, because nobody’s paying me to write this.

But me, I need passion.


For a few years in my early twenties I was passionate about Alcoholics Anonymous.  I mean that’s who I was for a little while.  I thought it was the life for me.  After being tentative and gradually going into that world, I fully immersed myself once comfortable.  I would get phone calls late at night and go talk to a drunk in need.  I gave a talk to troubled teens attending an early intervention class at a local church.  Almost all of my friends were members of AA.  We went to meetings together, then went out for coffee afterward, then sometimes even back to an apartment or house for a movie night after the coffee.  We took road trips together to meetings and seminars.  At the time, I was still considered a “young person in sobriety” (I was 25-26) and my closest AA buddies and I went to the Pennsylvania Convention of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (known as “Pennsypaa”).  We took over a hotel in downtown Baltimore (that’s right, it was in Baltimore–they like to make it a nice trip for everyone no matter where you live in the state) for three whole days.  That’s how passionate I was about Alcoholics Anonymous.  In addition to tons of panels and activities, there was also a room where they had round-the-clock meetings, one an hour, for the whole three days.  I made it my mission to do a stretch of 24 hours straight, but I think I only got 7 or 8 before I had to go sleep.  I had my favorite AA jokes (“They asked me to go to that meeting and give a talk on humility, but I said I’d only do it if enough people showed up”), I had my favorite chapters in the Big Book (“Us Agnostics”), and on and on.  It was my life and I thought it would always be.  It isn’t my life anymore, though.  It hasn’t been for a very long time.  Those guys I went to Baltimore with–there is only one of them I am still in touch with.  But that’s how it is supposed to be, back before social media changed our expectations; people, like passions, are allowed to come and go.  You can let them go.


Like most of my blog entries lately, I’m just kind of thinking out loud here.  Don’t look too hard for an overarching theme or thesis.  As my birthday approaches I’m doing a little taking stock.  Certainly my life right now is the most amazing it’s ever been–it is not putting on a front to say that.  People think that if you say your life is amazing on the internet that you must be lying, but they think that because their lives are not amazing.  I assure you mine is.

No, I am not taking stock of my life in some way that implies it needs improved, but rather, to discern just how I have changed so much.  This is one of the more massive themes of all the blog entries I’ve ever written: how the old me becomes the new me becomes the old me becomes the new me and on and on and on.  And why do I think you’d want to read about this?  Why, because I assume the same thing is happening to you.

I suppose it’s possible this is not happening to you.  It’s possible the old you became the new you and then you stayed right there, and now you’re just you.  But again, that’s none of my business.

What I want to get at is, how much of those old me’s are still part of me?  Are there fundamental bits of Seth mixed up inside me, that have always been there and shall always remain?  Or do we change, piece by piece, insidiously, until the person we see in the mirror bears no relation to the people we were 10, 20 years ago?

Is there even a way to know the answer?

Sometimes I think the only thing in this world that cuts to any part of the truth of existence is music–music without words–and the only thing I can really create is words, but no music.  So there you have it.  Questions stacked on questions like mirrors looking into mirrors.


I’ve seen Pearl Jam live 21 times.  Approximately.  It might be 17.  I know it is more than 15.  At some point in my life I knew that number very concretely.  That is how much has changed within me since I gave up the ghost on Pearl Jam.  For a very long stretch, the band was my life.  I bought everything you can possibly imagine–spending thousands of dollars on the band’s merchandise.  When they would tour, I would take vacations from work and follow them up and down the east coast, staying in hotels by myself in places as diverse as Jersey City to Virginia Beach.  I attended about 75% of those Pearl Jam shows all alone, and did not mind one bit.  I used to tell people I had to go to as many shows as possible because Pearl Jam concerts were “my church”.  Especially the long instrumental parts they would play in “Even Flow” and “rearviewmirror”; I would close my eyes during these times and replay my life up to that point, flipping through memory images, whatever came to mind and seemed significant, and then giving immense thanks that I had come through everything to be in a position to be standing there, right then, as this band was creating this music, and I had enough money to buy the poster and a t-shirt and my own hotel room.  When the band cycled back around to the climax of the song, I’d open my eyes, always tear-filled, and they’d pour down my cheeks, and I’d jump like a maniac as the music built to a catharsis, and I’d scream and pump my fists and let out my barbaric yawp.  It was my church.  I did that for a long time.  Seven or eight years.  But I don’t do that anymore.  I didn’t even look at the setlists for Pearl Jam’s last two tours.  I’m more of a Miles Davis kind of man now.


People talk very poorly of “routine”.  They are afraid of falling into routine.  They think routine will just sap the authenticity directly out of your life.

Here is what they mean: they are afraid of getting old and having responsibilities.

Lord knows I was afraid of those things for a very long time.  I lived by myself for a decade and railed against the breakfast-nook-having, 401k-caring-about, child-rearing snoozevilles.  But guess what?  While I was living alone, bitching about all that, I still had a routine.  I may have been able to take road trips more often, stay out late, what-have-you, but ultimately, if what you fear is routine, then you are fucked, mister, because whoever you are and whatever you do, you are already in a routine.

I have a family now.  I am now living much closer to what some people would call a “normal adult life”, and yes, we have a routine.  Having a routine is how you make sure you get out the door in the morning (if that’s what you have to do), get food in your belly, pay the power company on time.  Having a routine and being in the flow of “normal” adult life doesn’t mean your passion has to be siphoned off.

But you gotta work at it.

The last thing I want, as I near forty and the changes inside me keep accelerating, is to live joylessly, simply existing, from one day to the next, sun up, sun down, alarm beeping, alarm beeping.  Luckily my partner is also a person with no interest in living an ordinary life, even if we do want to have breakfast nooks someday and pay attention to our 401ks.  Intense existence and successful adulthood, I think, are not mutually exclusive.

I want our family to be safe from harm but I don’t want to “be safe”.  I want desperately to reach further and further out of my comfort zones.  I want to do new stuff until the day I die.  I don’t want to only listen to the music I loved in high school.  The world is so damn huge.  We’re only here for a blink.

I have learned that it is possible to grow up and still let the juice run down your chin.

Sea of Ice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2016 by sethdellinger

Famous people I know I would be good friends with if we ever got to know each other:

–Werner Herzog
–Kiefer Sutherland
–Anderson Cooper
–Emily Wells
–Dave Eggers
–Joaquin Phoenix
–Rachel Maddow
–Adam Savage

Oh hey, Karla and I were in line at a store last week.  We were next to be rung out.  We were standing kind of arm-in-arm.   We looked at each other and gave each other two or three quick, successive peck kisses.  The man behind the register threw his arms up in the air and bellowed, “FOLKS!  There’s other people here,” at which point he motioned to the other people in line behind us.  Then he said something along the lines of “Stop that” although I can’t remember his exact wording there.  We were flabbergasted!!  We hadn’t even been close to making out or kissing in any excessive way–whatever that would be!  It’s fair to say my anger was intense.  Karla pointedly asked the man behind us, “Were you offended?” and he said “I’m too tired to be offended.”  We were silent while he rang up our items.  As we walked out I said a very mean thing to him, which I do not feel bad about.

Oh hey, watch this video of Kay Ryan reading her poem “The Turtle”.  I mean wow.  “Her only levity is patience,/ the sport of truly chastened things.”


It’s not something you really wanna think about very much, but what songs would you want played at your funeral?  I actually used to think about this a lot, back when I was much more sad all the time, but even now the topic will cross my mind every few months.  Naturally my selections have varied wildly as time goes on and my tastes changed.  For many years I held tightly onto “Light Years” by Pearl Jam being one of the songs played, but that finally slid off the list a few years ago.  And thank goodness–in retrospect I can see that would have been gratuitously sad.  Just way TOO SAD.  Currently I am going with “A Three-Legged Workhorse” by This Will Destroy You, “I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time” by Hey Rosetta!,  and “Brian and Robert” by Phish.  I recommend trying this exercise yourself.  I think you’ll find it is quite revealing, not just about your musical tastes, but about the entirety of your life.

Here is a (partial) list of things I would try to get good at if I had unlimited time on this Earth:

–playing the guitar
–the yo yo
–ice skating

Oh hey, I’m reading a book about the earliest art to depict the polar regions after human exploration had begun there.  It’s a truly intriguing topic and some of this art is just spectacular.  Somewhat realistic based off the descriptions of the men who’d been there but also rather exaggerated and mystical as the place was still one of imagination and perceived danger and death.  Check out “Sea of Ice” by Caspar David Friedrich:




Who Needs You to Shovel

Posted in Philly Journal, Prose with tags , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by sethdellinger

My neighbors are obsessed with shoveling snow.  Every time it snows more than an inch, there is continual shoveling going on on my street, in the immediate vicinity of my house, for approximately 36 hours straight.  I am talking about perhaps my ten closest neighbors.  The shoveling NEVER.  STOPS.  Shoveling, scraping, pounding of ice in cracks.  It’s like they need to dust for some fingerprints on the concrete.  photo 5And listen, each one of these houses has approximately a three-foot-wide sidewalk that stretches the length of their house…maybe 20 feet.  Every time it snows, I shovel my sidewalk, as completely as would be necessary on a street upon which nobody travels, in about five minutes as soon as I get home from work.  After working ten hours.  And riding my bike two miles.  I’m saying: it’s not hard to do.  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not “complaining” about this.  I know I’ve got a reputation for “complaining” about things (I interpret it as “having opinions”, which comes from “being super fucking intelligent and awake to the machinations of the wider world photo 8and structure of reality”, but whatever, if you think I’m a complainer, I’m a complainer), so I don’t want to be seen as particularly complaining about this.  It’s whatever.  You want to shovel your sidewalk ten times after it snows, go for it.  More than anything I just find it peculiar.  Are they just bored?  Or is it a situation of trying to out-do the Joneses?  Plus it is SO COLD right now.  You KNOW I’m a trooper with weather but no way would I be going out repeatedly into that cold just to get my sidewalk–which in all likelihood only the mailman and my own family will walk on—perfect.

I know we don’t live in a world anymore—if ever we did—in which a significant amount of people care about the performances of musicians on late night talk shows.  For quite a few years (as should surprise almost nobody) I was such a person, one who actually paid attention to that world.  I knew the performance lineup from all the shows, almost every week, for about 4 years, I stayed on top of that.  Although lately that world has faded from my attention.  But last week, a band called The Orwells (I can only assume named after author George Orwell)

I hate to seem like a bumpkin, but this is a picture from my very first (solo and sober) cab ride yesterday...I think I'm finally a city boy.

I hate to seem like a bumpkin, but this is a picture from my very first (solo and sober) cab ride yesterday…I think I’m finally a city boy.

performed their new song “Who Needs You” on the David Letterman show and it was a pretty authentic, impassioned performance, which made some waves big enough that it made its way to my attention.  Now, there was nothing especially outrageous about this performance (other than the lyrics to the song, which nobody seems to have noticed, which include lines like “You better burn that flag/ Cause it aint against the law”…and for the record everybody…it isn’t against the law), except it wasn’t a cookie-cutter, “Let’s nail this!” performance.  It was just a little quirky, a lot impassioned, and fairly off-key.  I like it, but they’re probably not going to become a favorite band of mine (although I have put their album on my “to-buy” list). Although I don’t want to take too much away from the legitimacy of their performance; it WAS reminiscent of the early days of some great bands (who would later, inevitably, lose steam and passion) like the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, or The Doors before Morrison died (take note: I hate The Doors).   The more pertinent point of discussion, for me, is: what kind of artistic culture have we fostered where a band simply playing with a bit of abandon on a talk show makes the front page of Rolling Stone‘s website?  How neutered has our art become?  How boring are we?  Watch the performance here, and make sure you stay all the way to the end to see how unexpected Dave and Paul found the performance:

photo 6

My 7th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by sethdellinger


“Rearviewmirror” by Pearl Jam

No song in my life has meant as much to my sobriety—and hence my continued existence—than “Rearviewmirror” (also known as RVM) by Pearl Jam.

RVM is a song with lyrics that are vague, but are about the narrator overcoming an abusive (or at the very least, very shitty) relationship of some kind.  Eddie Vedder’s intention with these lyrics was almost certainly to convey the triumph over abuse by either a parent or a romantic partner, but thousands of people the world over feel a deep connection to the song, as everyone in the world has some bullshit in their past that once sucked, but they feel they have conquered it.

When I was still a drinking man, I already had a connection to the song: the woman who had broken my heart was the focus of the song’s energy.  I didn’t have a good reason for hating her—she just didn’t love me like I loved her, but it sucked a lot, anyway—but I latched onto the song’s air of “fuck you, I’m better off” and broke a lot of shit in my garage while I was wasted and this song blared.

Later, after I got sober, I was listening to this song sometime during the first few weeks of sobriety, when it occurred to me the lyrics worked perfectly if I made the antagonist alcohol (or alcoholism, if you wish, but that’s a thorny differentiation).  It didn’t take long for me to label it my “sobriety anthem” (along with this song, which sadly missed the cut for this list).  I understand that the term “sobriety anthem” could be a turnoff, and strike some as too self-serious, but if so, you’ve probably never had to go from day to day, not knowing if you’d drink, and if you did, if you’d drink until you lost your job, your friends and family, and died.  If you need a fucking anthem to not do that, you get yourself a fucking anthem.

I latched onto this song more than almost anything during my first two years of sobriety.  My first few blogs borrowed their titles from the lyrics (“The Shades Are Raised” was one, “I Gather Speed” was another).  But nothing could ever beat the first time I saw it played live.  I’ve had plenty of crying fits during songs I have emotional connections to in concerts, but my first RVM (at my second-ever Pearl Jam concert, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on July 12th, 2003) was a moment of purest emotional astonishment, surely never to be equaled.

I took a drive today,
time  to emancipate.
I guess it was the beatings made me wise.
But I’m not about to give thanks
or apologize.
I couldn’t breathe,
holdin’ me down.
Hand on my face,
kissin’ the ground.
Enmity gauged,
united by fear,
Supposed to endure
what I could not forgive…

I seem to look away,
wounds in the mirror waved.
It wasn’t my surface most defiled.
Head at your feet.
Fool to your crown.
Fist on my  plate,
swallowed it down.
Enmity  gained,
united by fear.
Tried to endure what I could not forgive.
Saw things clearer
once you were in my

I gather speed from you fucking with me.
Once and for all, I’m far away.
I hardly believe, finally the shades are raised.

My 13th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on January 30, 2013 by sethdellinger


“Hard to Imagine” by Pearl Jam

I formed my long-held adoration of Pearl Jam during my most serious drinking years.  They were years filled with mostly sorrow, self-doubt, regret, and love-sickness.  The music and lyrics of Pearl Jam meshed perfectly with this era of my life, and fewer songs left such an impression as “Hard to Imagine”.

I am far from alone in feeling such an intense connection to this song.  It never appeared on an official Pearl Jam album, but is certainly one of their more famous “b-sides”.  Until the mid-2000s, it had only been played live a handful of times, and it became notorious for it’s absence from the band’s live sets as more and more fans expressed their intense emotional connection to the song.  Eventually, around 2007, the band started putting it in setlists to wide acclaim (I knew I’d seen the band too many times when I actually started to feel annoyed by them opening with ‘Hard to Imagine’ again).

What’s interesting about the song is the completely interpretable lyrics.  Sure, Eddie Vedder doesn’t always write the world’s most straight-forward lyrics, but “Hard to Imagine” tells a story that can be viewed from about a hundred angles.  That’s part of what lends itself so well to a wide emotional connection, as well as it’s universal chorus of “Things were different then.  All is different now.  I try to explain…somehow.”  I mean, who doesn’t feel that in your GUT, no matter what you’re going through in life?

Below are the (very short, so read them!) lyrics, and then the studio version of the song, and then the best live version I could find.  I highly encourage everyone to watch and listen to this (everyone!).  I promise—promise!–you will be emotionally affected.

Hard to Imagine
by Pearl Jam

Paint a picture using only grey.
Light your pillow. Lay back. Watch the flames.
I’ll tell a story but no one
would listen that long.

It’s hard to imagine.

Tear into yourself, count days on your arm.
Ah the beating ticking like a bomb.
After having seen all that they saw,
it’s hard to imagine.

Things were different then. All is different now.
I tried to explain, somehow.

Things were different then. All is different now.
I tried to explain. I hope this works somehow.

My 39th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , on August 31, 2012 by sethdellinger


“Education” by Pearl Jam

A b-side that didn’t see the light of day until Pearl Jam released an album of b-sides and rarities, “Education” has a funkiness and swagger that is atypical of the band.  Lyrically, it is straight-forward while also containing vast, simplistic wisdom and insight into human nature.  While Eddie Vedder is a tremendous lyricist, “Education” doesn’t approach the subject matter in his usual style.  In many ways, “Education” is wholly unique in the Pearl Jam canon.  I highly encourage you to check out the lyrics after the video.

I’m questioning my education.
Is my education all I am now?
While you’re deciding, I’ve been finding,
Looking around in the here and now.

If I’d been taught from the beginning,
Would my fears now be winning?

I’m questioning my own equation.
Is my own equation relevant somehow?
The flags will wave and the news is breaking.
See the man who can’t pick out his own tie?

If I’d been taught from the beginning
Would my fears now be winning?
A wide world, figured out the answers.
I’ll be in my own, dancing out.

I’m questioning my education.
Rewind it, what does it show?
Could be, the truth, it becomes you.
I’m a seed wondering why it grows.

Even Flow

Posted in Photography with tags , , on August 22, 2012 by sethdellinger




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